Many of us grew up to bedtime stories of the Sandman, described as an elderly fellow who would sprinkle magick dust on us so that we would fall asleep. However, that is the sugar-coated Hans Christian Anderson version of the Sandman in his many children's writings in the 1800's. Long before Hans, there folklore dating much further back and stemming from Central and Eastern Europe concerning the Sandman, which is much, much darker.
The Sandman Wants Your Eyes
Some of the oldest writings of the Sandman present him as a Demon, who in the dead of night, would seek out those children who were 'bad', and would steal their eyes. Once he filled up his bag with eyeballs, he would take them to those recently deceased, still fresh in their graves, and replace them with the still living tissue of the children's eyes, trapping their souls in their decaying bodies beneath the earth.
Another depiction of the Sandman is a cloaked, hooded figure who sought out only those children who were not asleep by the stroke of midnight. In this version of Sandman lore, the Sandman was an evil spirit who would pluck the children's eyes out with his long talon-like nails, and then take them to his underground lair to eat (the eyes that is).
Still another version tells of the Sandman as made entirely of sand, and only black holes for eyes. The tale states that the Sandman came into being because of a man named Friedrich Klaus, who was murdered on the beach and left to rot in the sand. It is said his spirit could not rest and over time, became infernal. He took his revenge out not on his murderer, but on children. He would put small bags of sand on those children asleep before the Demonic Witching Hour (3am), to ensure a peaceful sleep and pleasant dreams. For the children awake past 3am, however, he would choose the one with the eyes he liked best, and rip them out, placing them into his own empty sockets so that he could see, and then seek out to solve his own murder.
Just When You Thought It Couldn't Get Any Worse
Yes, there is yet another depiction of the Sandman. It is the oldest and the most gruesome. This lore tells of a being from another realm altogether, unlike any other, who somehow found a way into our world. This being did not put anyone to sleep, at all. The Sandman would pin down both adults and children in their sleep, force their mouths open, and pour sand into them until they choked to death. A cannibal by nature, he would collect the bodies and store them in a cave, for that is where he is said to dwell, to feast on. He only took those with blonde hair and blue eyes, and no one seems to know why. There is nothing written of him doing anything with the eyes or hair, so it is uncertain as to what difference the hair and eye colour made. To protect themselves, people would tie scarves over their mouths and around their heads before bed, in an attempt to survive the Sandman.
So How Did The Sandman Become A Nice Bedtime Story?
Famous writer, Hans Christian Anderson, took the folklore of his culture (Danish), with respect to the Sandman, and decided to change it into something positive rather than the dark tales of stealing eyes (like the Brothers Grim wrote both very dark versions of their many tales and then lighter versions, such as the tale of Hansel and Gretel that most of us know). He turned the Sandman into a non-threatening old man, a granfatherly type, who simply came by to help you to fall asleep. His stories were comforting because this Sandman had only good intentions.
Ancient Times From Around The Globe
Okay, so perhaps there are a couple of more tales from way back in the day that are much nastier of a creature that sounds very much like the Sandman.
In Ancient Sumaria, there are writings and drawings of a creature (much too large to be a man), coming up out of the sand when a full moon is in the sky. This creature called "Krakos" meaning 'of sand', would rise every full Moon and murder exactly 13 people (men, women, children; it seemed to have to preference). The Krakos would skin then alive, and then leave then hanging from their feel on poles, next to the water, placed all in a row in the sand. To ensure they would die, the Krakos would also gut each person (disembowel).
Finally, in Ancient Rome, there are writings about a beast the people called the Lamia (and no, not like in "Drag Me To Hell, and no, you won't be able to Google it). The Lamia, which is Latin for Vampire, was said to have been a creature created by an evil Mage who had been shunned by his people. The Mage created the Lamia from sand, and then gave it instructions to suck the breath out of all his enemies during their sleep. This murder spree lasted for several months and then both the Lamia and the Mage vanished. The names of the people murdered are written on a wall next to a painting depicting the Mage commanding the Lamia. So what makes this tale so hideous? One the Lamia was done stealing the person's breath so that they were gasping and about to expire, it would stick it's claws in their mouths and rip their tongues out for the lies the Mage believed had been told against him. The tongues were given to the Mage who dried them and strung them together, then wore them around his neck as trophies.
What Do You Know About The Sandman?
If you have any interesting tales/folklore not included in this article about the Sandman, please email this writer and I will include them in a future article.
Oh yes and, Sweet Dreams to all.
Folklore of the World, By Helga Munch, 1650
The Ancients, By Gerald Sims, 1974
Children's Stories: Analysis and Origins, By Dr. Robert Peck, 2011
Encyclopedia of Monsters, Compilation, Penguin, 1969